Media Statements

Minister Calls on CRL to Act and Protect Public against Abuse in the Name of Religion

Dr. Zweli Mkhize, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs who is also responsible for religious and linguistic affairs has condemned the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders but instead take advantage of the public. Minister Mkhize was speaking at the 4th National Consultative Forum of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities which got underway in Irene, Pretoria, today (25 February 2019).

Minister Mkhize spoke out against the pastors, who engage in practices such as making congregants eat grass, drink fuel, eat rats, or spray them with dangerous aerosol products or take advantage of them financially when they are most vulnerable and seek assistance. “Society as a whole not just government alone must unite to protect our people from any abuse or psychological, physical, sexual, financial or any form of exploitation. Such abuse or exploitation is an infringement of our people’s right to worship or practice their faith or religion.”

“The CRL Rights Commission has also faced a difficult task of coordinating a debate on religious diversity and also to respond to community complaints about unacceptable practices by some church groupings. The nation has also been rocked by serious allegations of sexual abuse in some churches. The country has also seen practices such as spraying people with dangerous aerosol sprays, forcing people to drink vehicle fuel/lubricants or eating grass or rats, these practices must be stopped. These incidents require us to find solutions and successfully tread the line between harmful practices without interfering with religious freedoms. There must be ways to curb excesses that go beyond expected conduct in a normal setting for intended worship. CRL has to investigate such distasteful and unacceptable conduct to protect our people. The name of upright leaders of faith and reputable religious institutions get unnecessarily tainted by charlatans who take advantage of our people on their most vulnerable. Society must protect our people and institutions,” said Dr Mkhize.

He urged delegates to the conference to come up with proposals for how government and parliament can strengthen the religious institutions to ensure all the protection of religious rights for all.
“No person’s life must be put at risk nor their circumstances put in jeopardy, as a result of any malpractice in the name of faith or religion,” Minister Mkhize said. He also reiterated the call he has been making with regard to the deaths of initiates that “no human being must lose their lives in the name of culture”. To this end, the Minister has interacted with traditional leaders to ensure that everything possible is done to ensure that the deaths during the ritual of ulwaluko are curbed.

The Minister also slated the pattern of abuse under the cloak of culture and traditions. “As we celebrate our cultures and traditions, we also condemn certain practices such as the abuse of women and children under the cloak of culture. Practices which deny women their rights to freedom, economic freedom and participation, dignity and self-expression have no place in our democracy. We should thus unite in condemning child marriages and practices such as Ukuthwala which are practiced in the name of culture. All cultures should protect children, women and the vulnerable,” said Dr Mkhize.

He decried the fact that some religious groups still felt marginalized. “After 25 years of democracy, this situation cannot be left unattended to. In building a nation that is united in its diversity, all religions should be afforded equal status, and none should be made to feel marginalized and inferior, particularly indigenous African beliefs, which are inextricably linked to the way of life of the majority.”  He added that attention is also being paid to the religion and other cultural aspects of communities such as the KhoiSan, including their languages. Processes are still underway to legally recognize KhoiSan leadership positions and communities. The National Assembly is scheduled this week to consider the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill and the report from the CoGTA Portfolio Committee on amendments proposed by National Council of Provinces on the Bill. “Once approved, the law will go a long in addressing key issues related to Khoi-San and will provide direction and restore their dignity. For the first time, statutory recognition will be accorded to the Khoi-San communities and leaders,” said Minister Mkhize.

Issued by the Ministry of Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA).
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